Saturday, February 17, 2018
NOAA and partners launch deep-sea Atlantic expedition

NOAA and partners launch deep-sea Atlantic expedition

Deep SEARCH to study corals, canyons and seeps off southeast US coast

On September 12, NOAA and partners at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) begin a new four-and-a-half year study of deep-sea coral, canyon, and gas seep ecosystems in the mid- and south Atlantic.

To kick off the study, NOAA Ship Pisces departs from Norfolk, Va. to spend three weeks at sea exploring the geology and biology of deepwater habitats between 30 and 130 miles off the shores of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

NOAA ship Pisces

NOAA ship Pisces

Homeported in Pascagoula, Mississippi, NOAA Ship Pisces is the third in a class of state-of-the-art, acoustically quiet fisheries survey vessels built for a wide range of living marine resource surveys and ecosystem research projects. NOAA photo

The project, dubbed Deep Sea Exploration and Research of Coral/Canyon/Seep Habitats or Deep SEARCH will survey Keller Canyon, Pamlico Canyon, Hatteras Canyon, and several unnamed canyons, seeps, and hard-bottom features using the AUV Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle owned by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

“NOAA has a long-term interest in exploring and characterizing unknown and poorly understood areas of the global ocean,” said Dr. Alan Leonardi, Director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. “This study provides the opportunity for deep-water discoveries in the mid- and south Atlantic to help us understand and address current and emerging science and management issues in the region.”

Deep SEARCH will target coral, canyon, and seep habitats between 30-130 miles offshore the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Credit: USGS

Researchers will use a variety of AUV sensors and ship-board instruments to explore the surface and sub-surface of the sea floor and map it in high resolution. They will collect samples from the water column and seafloor sediment samples and create a database of the seafloor locations of deep-sea communities, including corals, sponges and organisms that inhabit gas seeps.

The research is organized through the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), with TDI-Brooks International, Inc., as the prime contractor for BOEM, and scientists from USGS and seven academic institutions participating.

More details about this first cruise can be found at the BOEM website. The public can also follow along on the mission, and obtain daily updates through the NOAA’s Ocean Explorer website.

For more information, please contact Theo Stein with NOAA Communications at NOAA Research, at 303-497-6288 or


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